John Digweed - Westword
Ask someone who doesn't know anything about electronic music to name a big DJ, and odds are, they'll pick John Digweed's name out of the crowd. He played the Big Name DJ (as himself, of course) way back in 2000 in the raver flick Groove, and he hasn't lost any of his hustle since hitting the big screen eleven years ago.
Digweed still plays to capacity crowds at parties and in clubs all over the planet to this day, and his record label is going strong and even breaking new ground. In advance of his upcoming set in Denver on Thursday, August 4 at Beta, we caught up with Digweed to talk about his latest album, Structures 2, what people can expect at the Beta show and what it's like to be livin' the dream.
Westword: Can you talk about how Structures 2 relates to the rest of your body of work?
John Digweed: I think, obviously, the transition is ... before I had albums with Global Underground and Renaissance, other complications on Ministry of Sound, but Structures 2 is released on my record label. So for me, it's a way of showcasing the new talent that's coming through on the label, or artists that I admire that I want to sign.
It's a chance for me to get exclusive tracks from these producers and showcase them on an album. In this day and age, things come out so quick and fast that by the time you get an album out, the tracks have been out for three months, so I tried to include quite a few exclusives that people haven't heard before, so people will be hearing it for the first time.
Can you talk about your decision to include a live mix in the set of CDs?
On the first Structures album, I did a live mix which was recorded in Miami at the Vagabond, and the reaction to that was really great. I hadn't had a commercial live mix before -- the odd mix on the radio and the Internet -- but it just kind of made sense. I record all my sets as I travel around, so when you record a good set, it's a shame it doesn't get aired. I knew the set at the Avalon (in Los Angeles) was something special; I wanted to put that out there, it was a really good set and party, and that way, people get to hear me in a club setting.
What was your favorite aspect of making this album?
The live mix wasn't really tough at all -- once it was done! I knew when I was playing the gig in Los Angeles that it was a special party, so that was plain sailing. I really enjoyed the first CD, putting together the downtempo mix. I don't do many of those mixes, and I think it's important for the label to have range. It's not just putting out one style of music, and that's all you can do. We can make great club records, but also set the mood for something slower.
What was the biggest challenge?
As I run the record label, we don't have many challenges; we're not working against a deadline. That's one of the beauties of being your own boss. It happens when it happens, there's no stress or pressure to do it by a certain point. When it's right, that's the time to release it. We're quite laid-back. We're probably not the most organized record label, but I don't really care. It should be fun when you do these things, not stressful.
You've been around for a long time and built quite a name for yourself -- is there anything on your music or career "bucket list" that you haven't hit yet? Any goals or dreams you still have ahead of you?
There's a lot of boxes I've ticked. If you'd have asked me at the start of my career whether I'd do these things, I'd have said, "no." There's a lot of things I've done that I never would have thought. But I'm doing amazing parties, week-in, week-out, get to travel all around the world. I've got the best job in the world.
So I'm not going to say, "I wish I'd done this or I wish I'd done that," because when I was eleven or twelve years old, all I wanted to be was a DJ, so I'm living my dream and have been for many many years. What more could you want?
What are your goals for the Bedrock label in the future?
The music industry has gone through a drastic shift over the past few years. You've just got to stay focused, put out good, quality music that you hope people will be interested in and want to buy, because ultimately, you are running a business that sells something. With downloading and file sharing, it definitely factors into the amount of sales. You've got to be crazy good value for money, and if you do a physical CD, make sure the design and packaging is good so people want to physically own it.
We do a good job of ticking all those boxes. We're quite a relaxed organization, but if the product is good, people will want it. I just want the label to be known as something that puts out good-quality music, whatever genre. In the current climate, that's pretty good.
How will your set at Beta relate to the new release -- if at all? What should fans expect when they show up?
I'll probably say "good electronic music." I'm not one of those people who plays the same set week-in, week-out. If I've got a bunch of new records that have gotten sent by producers that week, I'll play those instead of plugging my record. Once the record is out, I tend to move on to other things. What excites me is new music, so I'm always about throwing forward, not backward.
Is there anything else you want to add?
I had a great time last time I was at Beta, I haven't been there for a while, so I'm looking forward to the show. And it's a mid-week night, so it attracts people coming out specifically to hear you play. Sometimes on the weekend, you have the music crowd and the clubbing crowd, but when you play a Wednesday or Thursday, you know they're coming out to see you.